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4.01 Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Pain-Dysfunction Syndrome


Presentation

Patients usually complain of poorly-localized facial pain or headache that does not appear to conform to a strict anatomical distribution. The pain is generally dull and unilateral, centered in the temple, above and behind the eye, in and around the ear. The pain may be associated with instability of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), crepitus, or clicking with movement of the jaw. It is often described as an earache. Other less obvious symptoms include radiation of pain down the carotic sheath, tinnitus, dizziness, decreased hearing, itching, sinus symptoms, a foreign body sensation in the external ear canal, trigenimal, occipital and glossopharyngeal neuralgias. Patients may have been previously diagnosed as suffering from migraine headaches, sinusitis or recurrent external otitis. Predisposing factors include malocclusion, recent extensive dental work, or a habit of grinding the teeth (bruxism), all of which put unusual stress upon the TM joint. Clinical signs include tenderness of the chewing muscles, the ear canal or the joint itself, restricted opening of the jaw or lateral deviation on opening, and a normal neurological examination.

What to do:

What not to do:

Discussion

The relative etiologic roles of inadequate dentition, unsatisfactory occlusion, dysfunction of the masticatory muscles and emotional disorders remain controversial. To stress the role played by muscles, it has been suggested that the term "myofascial pain-dysfunction (MPD) syndrome is more accurate than "TMJ arthritis." There is also much debate as to the indications for and the efficacy of treatment modalities aimed at the presumed etiologies. At the least, irreversible treatments such as surgery should be replaced by more conservative therapy. The use of bite blocks for bruxism was based on outdated information and may only serve to alter normal dental occlusion with deleterious effects.

Perhaps everyone suffers pain in the TMJ occasionally, and only a few require treatment or modification of lifestyle to reduce symptoms. In the ED the diagnosis of TMJ pain is often suspected, but seldom made definitively. It can be gratifying, however, to see patients with a myriad of seemingly unrelated symptoms respond dramatically after only conservative measures and advice.

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from Buttaravoli & Stair: COMMON SIMPLE EMERGENCIES
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Craig Feied, MD
Mark Smith, MD
Jon Handler, MD
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